Agriculture and food systems face the challenge of meeting the growing demand for more and higher quality food, but also of doing so in a way that is sustainable, equitable and meets the nutritional needs and preferences of consumers. How should we move ahead to make sure that agriculture and food systems are up to this task?
My name is Salomeyesudas and I work as an independent consultant for several organizations in Tamil Nadu, India. Currently I am working on a research paper on public food systems for the Dhan Foundation.
In spite of the many public food distribution systems, India is facing nutritional emergencies and the prevalence of malnutrition remains very high.
One of the reasons is that food schemes are mainly based on the distribution of the energy-rich cereals wheat and rice but do not take the nutritional value of into account.
I would like to explore whether the introduction of different crops such as millets into the distribution system could yield improved nutritional outcomes.
In addition to case studies and example from India, I would be very grateful to receive information on other South Asian countries, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The Cost of Hunger in Africa (CoHA): The Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Malawi report shows that the country loses significant sums of money each year as a result of child undernutrition through increased healthcare costs, additional burdens to the education system and lower productivity by its workforce. It estimates that child undernutrition cost Malawi 10.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2012 (most recent year with complete data).
The 12-country, government-led study is commissioned by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development’s Planning and Coordinating Agency and supported by the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN World Food Programme. The study's model estimates the additional cases of illness, death, school repetitions, school dropouts, and reduced physical productivity directly associated with those suffering undernutrition before the age of five. Based on data from each country, the model then estimates the associated economic losses incurred by the economy in terms of health, education, and potential productivity in a single year. So far, it has been conducted in six countries in Africa including Malawi.
Some key findings to emerge from the study in Malawi reveal that:
Overall, the Cost of Hunger in Africa study serves as an important tool to show how undernutrition is not just a health issue, but an economic and social one as well that requires multi-sectoral commitment and investment. It reinforces the critical need to prioritize nutrition in the national development agenda.